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Lakshmi Tatma::The little girl who had eight limbs


She was born with a unique body - eight limbs and two torsos fused at the hips.

Now Lakshmi Tatma, the Indian toddler whose plight touched the world, has grown up and started school.

Two years after a ground-breaking operation to separate her from a parasitic twin, Lakshmi is a lively and bubbly four-year-old.

She loves playing cricket with her older brother, has a tendency to boss around her newfound friends and remains firmly a daddy's girl.

'When I think of the way she was, never in a million years would Lakshmi have been able to go to school or have the life she does today,' said her mother Poonam, 26.

'All the things she's capable of now were impossible two years ago.

'I often try to think what she might be like today if she hadn't had the operation - she couldn't even sit up before and now she runs around like other children.'

Born in a dusty farming village in India's poorest state, Lakshmi was revered as a deity and worshipped from birth.

Villagers, who believed she was the reincarnation of the Hindu goddess of wealth and fertility, would seek her blessing daily and leave gifts at her bedside.

But Lakshmi's resemblance to her mythological namesake came at a terrible price. She could not walk, stand, or even sit.

The little girl was joined to a headless parasitic twin that had stopped developing in her mother's womb. Doctors were convinced she could not have survived into adulthood.

Now fully recovered from the 27-hour operation to save her, Lakshmi is almost unrecognisable from her former self.

Beneath the surface, however, lurk a series of medical problems that threaten her future and will require years of surgery.

Six months after the complex operation to remove Lakshmi's parasitic twin, doctors discovered she had developed scoliosis, or a curvature of the spine.

Without a complex operation to correct her spine doctors have warned her back will be forced into increasingly severe deformities as she grows, possibly leaving her disabled.

Separately, Lakshmi requires an operation to 'detether' her spine after it was discovered she was born with abnormal tissue connecting the spinal cord to her nervous system.

In a further operation orthopaedic surgeons must perform a procedure to 'close her hips', which are set too far apart and result in an unusual 'gaited' walk.



Finally, plastic surgeons will need to find a way to create buttocks for Lakshmi, which did not form in the womb because of the unique way she was connected to her parasitic twin. In the same operation surgeons will have to fix related problems with her bladder and intestines.

'Lakshmi has come such a long, long way but we're very scared for the future,' said her mother Poonam.

'At one time we never imagined she would look so healthy, so we are very grateful for all the help we've had.

'But we can't bear the thought that all this help could be undone if we can't find a way to get the extra operations she needs.

'The charity that looks after her cares for 500 other children as well. It does not have the funds to pay for these operations and we have no money either.

'The hospital that operated on her before has promised to help but they cannot correct her spine because it is such a specialised operation.

'All we want is for her to be a normal child. She has had her operation but even now she can't walk or move normally. Her feet don't come together properly and when she walks it hurts.'

Despite the threat to her future, Lakshmi's life today is a world away from the circumstances of her birth.



Born to impoverished parents in the frequently lawless state of Bihar, in India's volatile northeast, Lakshmi faced an uncertain future until a wealthy doctor heard of her plight and offered to operate on her for free.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sharan Patil, owner of the Sparsh Hospital in Bangalore 2,000 miles south, travelled to Lakshmi's remote village in 2007 to meet the child and offer her parents the chance of a lifetime.

After more than a month planning the separation, Dr Patil's team attempted the first operation of its kind in the world.

Hundreds of journalists camped outside the hospital throughout the 27-hour surgery.

Lakshmi's fame, having spread from her tiny village around the world, prompted Sucheta Kriplani Shiksha Niketan (SKSN), a charitable school looking after disabled children in the desert state of Rajasthan, to offer her parents a place to live and the chance of an education for Lakshmi and her brother Mithilesh.




Dr Bhairoon Singh Bhati, the secretary of SKSN, said: 'Lakshmi is a special case for us. She's a very challenging case because you can never tell from her medical history when she might next fall ill.

'Her scoliosis is an example of the problems Lakshmi faces because we had no way of knowing she would develop a curvature of the spine.

'Similarly, despite all the problems she still faces we have no way of knowing what may crop up in the future.

'The biggest difficulty caring for Lakshmi is that she's a unique case - there's never been a child like her before so we have nothing to refer back to.'

Under Dr Bhati's guidance Lakshmi has started school, joining her elder brother as the only members of their family to ever receive an education.

Her father Shambu, 28, said: 'I believe with all my heart that Lakshmi is indeed a goddess. The operation removed her extra legs so that she can lead a normal life but she is not a normal child.

'She's special, I think anything is possible for her. I'd like her to be educated so she can become a teacher. Then she can pass on what she knows to other children.'

U.S. customs officers caught Women Wearing Live gem-encrusted insect as brooch

U.S. customs officers stopped a woman on her way into the country because she was wearing a jewel-encrusted beetle as a brooch - and it was alive.

The woman was entering America from Mexico when she was stopped at a border outpost in Brownsville, Texas.

The live insect - which is studded with gemstones and gold - was fastened to her sweater by a gold chain and safety pin but was able to wander on her jumper.

She declared the live insect to officials and said she had bought it in Mexico as a brooch but it was immediately confiscated by pest control.



Officials refused to allow her to keep the live jewellery because she did not have the correct documents.

Because the woman had declared the insect correctly, she was not handed any fine or penalty.

The beetle was sent to the Plant Inspection Station at Los Indios International Bridge for further identification.



Moving live plant pests in any form into or out of the U.S. has to be declared to customs.

Beetles are a popular subject for jewellery, going back for centuries. It is thought to be relatively common in Mexico for live ones to be decorated in this way.

Jackie Kennedy was rumoured to have been given a living brooch when she was America's first lady.

Meet Kirk's dik-dik at barely ten inches tall this HAS to be the cutest baby around

She was abandoned by her mother during the cold snap but she has since won the hearts of everyone who has met her.

This tiny antelope, who is barely ten inches tall, is being bottle fed milk five times a day and will
be given a helping hand until she is old enough to tuck into a diet of buds, shoots and fruits herself.

Experts at Chester Zoo believe the icy weather may have put a chill on her mother's maternal instincts, leaving the keepers to step in.



The baby antelope is a Kirk's dik-dik, the first of her kind to be born in the zoo.

Senior keeper Helen Massey has been playing mother to the new arrival.

"Kirk's dik-dik is one of the smaller of the antelope species but what they lack in stature, they make up for in appeal," she said.

"Our addition is growing stronger by the day and we hope she will be holding her own in the next few weeks."





Native to Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia, the dik-dik gets its name from the noise it makes when running for cover. They can live for up to 10 years.

The female's parents came from Colchester and Hanover zoos.

Water-skiing squirrel is the star attraction at U.S. boat show

Among the luxury yachts, the designer boating gear and exhilarating indoor wakeboard performances, one pocket-sized American celebrity is making an almighty splash at the 38th Minneapolis Boat Show.

Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel is the star turn at the five-day event in the U.S., performing for the swooning public on a miniature pair of skis in a custom-made pool.

The timid little creature is towed behind a remote-controlled toy powerboat operated by her trainer, Lou Ann Best.





Twiggy, a Florida grey squirrel, was rescued by Lou Ann and her late husband Chuck in 1978 when a hurricane blew the animal from its tree-top nest. It has been performing ever since.

The squirrel has performed in Europe as well as north America and boasts appearances on hit US TV shows 'Good Morning America', 'The Rosie O'Donnell Show' and 'Late Night with David Letterman' as well as three movies.

Twiggy even has its own Florida billboard.

According to his website Twiggy is just one of a number of aquatic animals trained by the Bests.

They claim to have taught two miniature horses, two French poodles, a black cat, an armadillo and a toad frog. They have even taught a squirrel named Ollie to jet-ski.

Twiggy has provided an interesting diversion to some of the more extravagant items on display, with one 48ft house boat set to cost approaching three-quarters of a million dollars.

Maths prodigy, 14, becomes youngest Cambridge student since 1773

A maths prodigy is set to become the youngest Cambridge graduate for more than two centuries - at just fourteen years old.

Arran Fernandez had already broken records with his GCSE results and glided through A-level maths and further maths.

Now the child genius has received a conditional offer from Fitzwilliam College after he passed the university’s notoriously tough entrance exam last summer.



Assuming he cements his offer by passing A-levels physics, Aaron will become the youngest undergraduate to study at the celebrated university since William Pitt the Younger in 1773.

Home-educated Arran said: ‘Maths has been my favourite subject for as long as I can remember.
‘I enjoy being home-schooled because I'm more involved. I can see the mark schemes and help my dad decide the curriculum.’

The degree, which is called a tripos at Cambridge University, is widely considered one of the hardest in the world.

Former scholars include Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking.



Arran first hit the headlines in 2001 when he became the youngest person to pass a GCSE at just fives years old. Aaron passed the foundation maths GCSE paper with a grade D - the highest grade that could be awarded in that category.

He then sat the intermediate GCSE the following summer and further wowed teachers with an A in the advanced level paper in 2003.

Reports at the time said Arran aspired to be ‘a mathematician, lorry driver or space explorer’.

But speaking about his latest ambition seven years on, Arran said he hopes to be a research mathematician.

‘It would be nice to work for Cambridge. There are a few things I want to work on. I'd like to solve the Riemann Hypothesis.’
The Riemann Hypothesis, an unsolved theory about the patterns of prime numbers, has baffled the greatest mathematicians for 150 years.

Is this world's most dangerous job?Crocodile Wrestlers who put their head on the line

The daily grind at the office may not seem so bad after viewing these startling images.

For, no matter how grumpy your boss may be this morning, at least you aren't actually risking life and limb by sticking your head in his jaws.

But that is exactly what the crocodile wrestlers at a Thai zoo do on a daily basis.





This astonishing series of photographs shows the men at the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo performing what may well be the world's most dangerous job.

The wranglers have been performing the stunts at the zoo on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, since it was set up in 1985.

During the hour-long shows they stick their head between the jaws of some of the zoo's biggest crocs, in the style of Krai Thong, a legendary Thai crocodile hunter.



Photographer Bronek Kaminski, who witnessed the feat on a trip to the attraction, said: 'They are quite lively crocodiles. They are not lying around half asleep all the time.

'They are chomping at a bamboo stick and snapping their jaws and then they guys put them into some sort of trance and put their head into the croc's mouth.



'He keeps it in there for a long time, and puts his arm in, right up to his shoulder.

'Then the crocodile goes back to being a wild animal. It's very impressive.

'I was not sure if they were actually going to do it so when they do you are really taken back by it.'

The centre also doubles up as a breeding zoo, and has more than 10,000 crocodiles.